The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism sadly announces the death of Richard L. Veech, MD, DPhil, Chief of the NIAAA Laboratory of Metabolic Control. Dr. Veech joined NIH after earning his bachelor’s and medical degrees at Harvard and his DPhil at Oxford under the tutelage of Hans Krebs. While in the process of completing his graduate work at Oxford and planning his start at NIH, he survived the crash of a commercial airliner wherein most passengers and crew were killed. Despite serious injury to himself, he was responsible for saving several fellow passengers, for which he was officially certified a Hero by the State of New Hampshire.
Dr. Veech began his 50-year NIH career as a Medical Officer in NIMH, joined NIAAA in 1974 and became Lab Chief in 2000. He published broadly and deeply and achieved world-wide recognition as a father of metabolomics and advocate for the possible health benefits of ketones. His name will always be associated with cell metabolism, energy metabolism and ketones. He was particularly interested in the relationship between cellular electrolyte balance and metabolism, as reflected in his controversial Donnan near-equilibrium hypothesis linking membrane voltage and ion changes to metabolism, redox and the free energy of ATP. He was attempting to write an Equation of State for the cell in health and disease.
He is also listed as an inventor on 26 US patents, most involving electrolyte composition of parenteral fluids or therapeutic uses of ketone bodies, but notably including one on an environmentally friendly treatment to discourage barnacle attachment to marine structures.
Dr. Veech has long been recognized as a leading basic scientist and an astute and compassionate physician. He will be missed.